Premise: Mulder and the tape go missing
Hey, its… The Well-Manicured Man (a.k.a. John Neville (a.k.a. Baron Munchausen from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen)!)!
How good is this episode?
Where Season 2 got off to an uncertain start, Season 3 hits the ground running. So much story and so many characters get packed into “The Blessing Way” that it’s hard to believe it’s just one 45-minute episode. Mulder’s part in it is relatively small and fairly passive. This is Scully’s episode and Scully’s story. With her partner missing, she’s on her own, having to cope with her personal grief, search for the missing tape, and deal with a host of new revelations. It’s not an enviable situation for her to be in, but it makes for plenty of dramatic tension. My only real complaint about this episode is its use of the Mystical Native trope. The writers are obviously trying to portray Indigenous people in a positive light, but the Native characters feel flat: they are mainly defined by their spiritualism and exist primarily to help the white people’s story.
How ace is this episode?
In “Ascension” and “One Breath” Mulder got to bond a bit with Scully’s mom; now we see Scully reaching out to Mulder’s mom. Since she has to introduce herself and describes herself as someone who “works with” Mulder, it’s clear that she has not been welcomed into the Mulder clan the way he has into the Scullys. This probably says as much about Mulder’s relationship with his family as his relationship with Scully, though. And the act of going to Bill Mulder’s funeral in itself is a kind of familial task for Scully to take on.
Great moments in queerplatonic bonding
Mulder comes to Scully in a dream. Yeah, that’s right, they’re psychically connected! And, just as Scully can intuitively tell real Mulder from a shape-shifter, she apparently knows when he is alive, even if all the evidence suggests otherwise.
Favourite moment: “Do you recycle?”
- I do rather like Albert’s “Memory is like fire” speech at the beginning, which could really apply to a host of real-life situations.
- Although a weaker episode over-all, you could argue that “Shapes” actually did a better job of representing Native Americans and Indigenous-settler relations. At least in the earlier episode we had a variety of Indigenous characters; they had to deal in non-magical ways with a realistic amount of racism; and some of them were understandably suspicious of Mulder and Scully.
- I find Scully’s conversation with Melissa a bit trite. Their interaction consists almost entirely of Melissa giving a compressed, rehashed version of her dialogue from “One Breath”. Still, I’m glad we got at least one scene of the Scully sisters interacting. It is also interesting to note the physical contrast between them: Melissa tall, skinny, and feminine, Dana short, stocky, and androgynous. A subtle reminder that Scully was and still is the tomboy of her family.
- It took me a while to learn that the elderly gentleman with the English accent was called the “Well-Manicured Man” – and when I did, I was dreadfully confused by the word “manicured”. I can’t say I noticed his fingernails at all, did you?!